Sunday, August 10, 2014

Orchards and Axes

Today was a fantastic workshop here at the farm, presented by Professor Brett McLeod. Brett is a forester, a lumberjack, a homesteader, and soon to be author. His class held here today covered the basics of orcharding on small properties. Me and the farm's six guests learned so much! And boy, do I ever mean that. Brett was here to teach this class because while I can make a mean apple pie and know a granny smith from a Gala - that is pretty much the extent of my apple-based knowledge. Yes sir, when it comes to apples I am a great goat milker.

So Brett was hired for this class and he did so much more than just talk about saws and loppers. He went through each tool, one at a time, and then showed us how and when to use it. Much of this talk centered around chainsaw 101 and as someone who does not own any rotating teeth machines, I'll admit I was daunted but the way he described the tool was just that: a tool. When you know how to used it safely it is safe and a grand asset to any homestead. He explained what sizes and bar lengths matched each of us based on body types and purpose of the saws. He covered care and feeding, fuel and storage, safety and technique.  I'm a little less afraid of them now!

And from there we started learning how, why, and when to prune bearing trees. He explained that August is not the time for pruning fruit trees, it should be done in late winter when the tree is dormant, but we did get to try out his techniques on a spruce tree withering in the shade of the King Maple. Small, folding hand saws and anvil shears were used, tools I never owned or used before. We walked up the hill by the sheep and looked at apple trees that had died and why, and then cut them down with chainsaws. Before lunch we were all spitting out arborist lingo, knew our chainsaw fits, pruned, and felled two dead trees. The dead trees knocked a lot of apples out of the crowns of the neighboring apples and we collected them in the basket shown. The sheep wanted them but I stole them for pies for the falconry picnic next weekend. Rule 182892 of farming: Baas do not trump pie. 

After lunch we continued our backyard forestry education with felling a large ash tree on the property and working as a community to haul off the branches into the woods (some rabbits will be very happy) and using the saws to cut them into firewood rounds. I see a lot of axe time in my future tomorrow, but the wood (read: heat) supply is ramping up slowly and to know wood that made me sweat in August, gathered with friends, will be keeping me warm in March is heartwarming to me. Friends keep you warm.

The workshop wrapped up with a talk about buying trees from nurseries, when and how. We talked about the proper way to plant a tree and how far to space them. The differences between dwarfs, semi-dwarfs and standard and what suits what land. And then settled into a discussion about making hard cider from fresh pressed apples, the way I have since 2009 or so, since first moving to Veryork from Idaho. We all wished we were sipping that fine, sweet, stuff by the end of the hot and worthwhile day. Alas, we just had lemonade. Still, so worth it.

Thank you all who came out, especially Mr. McLeod. And if you are interested in learning more about felling trees and chainsaws, come to Antlerstock where Brett will be back to teach his witchcraft again. There are two spots left for regular sales, but read below for a heck of a deal

The Kickstarter Campaign for Birchthorn has hit the halfway mark! 50% Funding! I have ten days to get the rest of the pledges and hope those of you on the fence will pop over the the site and show your support of Cold Antler with a community-written novel! And even if you're not into paranormal horror or storycrafting, you can pledge at the NEW $100 or $250 dollar amount and get free workshop, camp, or Antlerstock tickets. I think two of the three of the Antlerstock ticket sets are still available, making a $400 weekend only $250, plus all the cool perks, books, blog, and like that. So support the kickstarter, support this farm, and help keep me and the animals* safe, warm, and writing* this winter.

*Yes, Maude can write... Hatemail.


OpenID T. Crockett said...

It sounds like a great day. I hope it will become a regular workshop, since I hope to some day need those skills.

August 10, 2014 at 11:12 PM  
Blogger Tanmay Roy said...

Beautiful photos! I love this very much. Thank you!

August 11, 2014 at 2:18 AM  

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